i reported, and it sucks (part iii)

content warning: SEXUAL ASSAULT/RAPE

This is the third part of my story of reporting sexual assault to the police in the PNW United States in 2021. The first part of my story is here, and the second part is here.

Everytime I think the investigation of my sexual assault might let my heart rest, it comes back and hollows it out.

I was sitting at work when a police officer called me to arrange a meeting. She told me that she would be at my house a bit before 7 am the next day. She only asked if that was okay with me afterwards.

I was too tired to disagree.

At least I didn’t have too long to agonize this time. I kept busy hands and did my best to find sleep. I woke before dawn to go to a home improvement store and patched my bathroom floor on my hands and knees. I watered my plants and rooted my bottom into the earth and breathed. I was prepared to interact with this person despite my anxiety. I had prepared well. I was proud of myself.

Somehow having a woman in uniform in my kitchen felt slightly less scary the second time. My dog attacked the officer with excitement, demanding pets and attention. We sat down at the kitchen table, two women on opposite sides of a terrifying line. I wondered if she knows how easy it is to cross over to my side of the darkness.

I was ready for the officer to tell me that they had talked to the man and that he had denied everything. I was ready to hear that the case wasn’t going anywhere, that it was too much he said/she said to be adjudicable.

But I wasn’t prepared at all for what happened next. The officer handed me a piece of paper with a printed screenshot of a thread of text messages. I felt my stomach drop. I saw my name on the page. I saw the words “u know what u did.” And I wondered if this man was actually so duplicitous that he created fake text messages to protect himself. Or perhaps he had just raped another girl named Amanda, too. After all, in the texts, she identified herself as “Mandy,” a name I have never called myself.

The officer asked me a lot of questions about whether the texts were from me, from one of my friends. I had never seen these messages before in my life. I was experiencing shock, fear, and a touch of anger.

It felt unfair when I got raped. It felt unfair when I had to spend my money on Plan B, and a gyn appointment, and an STD panel. It felt unfair that my therapy sessions had been taken over by his selfish actions. But it felt especially unfair that he would craft messages to defend himself and say that those messages were from me. He had already taken my power away once. Now he was trying to usurp my identity and my voice, too.

I’d never even spoken to the man after he assaulted me. Not once, not ever. We never exchanged contact information. I had no intention of ever speaking to my rapist again.

I offered to give her my phone records, but she said it’s easy to send texts from a new number—you can get a burner phone, download an app. The point is hard to argue.

You know, the officer told me, it’s okay if you did text him. It’s not a crime to text someone.

It isn’t a crime to text someone. But I wasn’t interested in chatting with my rapist or giving him my contact info.

Can I read what he says I said? I asked, wondering if I regret the question before it even comes out of my mouth.

It’s probably better that you don’t, the officer replied, almost gentle.

Do you remember if he took off his shoes in his house? Or what shoes he was wearing? I couldn’t remember, and I couldn’t imagine how that was relevant.

No, I don’t remember his shoes at all.

Our conversation continued and my anxiety compounded. Suddenly I could feel his presence, his voice sickly sweet in the dark. I wasn’t in this conversation anymore. I wasn’t even in my kitchen anymore.

I’m sorry, I don’t remember what we were talking about, I told her honestly.

Does that happen a lot? she asked.

Only when I’m having a flashback of being raped, I whispered. I looked at her face, desperate for compassion. Her eyes told me that she did not understand. Her mouth told me that she might want to.

The officer asked whether I’d had a flashback to a new moment, or the same ten seconds I’d recounted to her a dozen times. I told her it was the same. Always the same. She seemed disappointed, and I understand why. Her facts are sparse. Her narrative is full of holes I cannot help fill.

She reminded me again of the evidentiary importance of rape kits. She implored me to ensure the collection of my insides for public evaluation next time. It was knowledge I could share with my family, my friends, the officer told me.

I wondered whether she knew what it was like to get raped. To have your power taken from you. To attempt to think clearly after someone has invaded your body, your soul.

On the phone with my friend on my way to work, I wondered if I should send the officer some of the texts I sent the day after my rape. Texts that explicitly said that I had exchanged no contact information with the perpetrator, and that also corroborated the story I had told the cops.

I figured it couldn’t hurt, since the officer was taking the investigation to the DA for review that day. I emailed screenshots of the texts to the officer and soon we were on the phone, rehashing the same painful details.

You didn’t want to have sex with him, right?

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

I wondered how many times I would have to say it.

Does my no even matter?

It never has before.

Amanda, I have to go, the officer said, I’m behind a drunk driver.

I let her go with a cheery customer service voice. I pretended all of it was just fine.

As the line went dead, my tragedy felt like nothing more than an unchecked line on a to-do list, something to finish, a case to close, a task to take care of. Soon enough, the officer would slash the box with an x and be free of me and my problem.

If only I could check off my rape that easily.

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